Sambucus racemosa, commonly known as red elder or red elderberry, is a deciduous suckering shrub which typically grows to 8-12’ tall with a somewhat sprawling habit. It features (1) opposite, pinnate-compound, green leaves (6-9” long) which have 5-7 leaflets (each to 4” long), (2) dome-shaped clusters (panicled cymes) of numerous, late spring to early summer, tiny, fragrant, white flowers and (3) dark red, summer-to-fall elderberry fruits in upright clusters. This shrub is native to Europe and northern Asia. Fruits are sour and usually not consumed raw by humans, but may be cooked for use in the preparation of wine, jelly and pies. Fruits are attractive to wildlife.
It is best grown in deep, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best foliage color is in full sun. Tolerates a wide range of soils, but prefers moist, humusy, nutrient-rich, neutral to slightly acidic loams. Garden Uses. Group or mass in naturalized areas. Good accent shrub featuring deeply incised leaves, attractive flowers and interesting fruits. Landscape specimen, shrub borders, screens, backgrounds, stream/pond peripheries or low spots. Good sprawling hedge. Hardy in zones 3-7.
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They require 30-60 day warm, moist stratification followed by at least 90-150 days cold stratification. The seeds can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year.
- Warm stratify the seeds for 30-60 days.
- Place the seeds in a plastic bag and seal it. Store the bag in a refrigerator for 3-5 months.
- The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Fill a pot with a mixture of half potting soil and half sand or vermiculite.
- Sow the seeds on the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil.
- Water the container.
- Put the pot in a warm, sunny area.
- Water the pot regularly so that the soil is moist but not wet.
- The seedlings can be transplanted when they are a few inches tall.